WIGAN prop Ben Flower faces a minimum eight-game suspension after being hit with the most serious charge in the sport’s rulebook following his double punch attack on St Helens’ Lance Hohaia in Saturday’s Super League Grand Final.
The 26-year-old Wales international was sent off just two minutes into the Old Trafford showdown, which St Helens went on to win 14-6, in the process becoming the first player to see red in the season-ending finale.
Flower was charged with a Grade F offence by Rugby Football League [RFL] yesterday, which is reserved for the most severe disciplinary reprimands and covers violent and aggressive punching as well as the punching of an off-guard opponent.
New Zealander Hohaia was charged with the considerably lighter Grade B offence for his forearm smash which preceded the flashpoint, which in turn brings a mandatory suspension of between one and two weeks.
Flower, who has since issued an apology, will appear before an independent disciplinary tribunal in Leeds this evening while Hohaia – who insists he holds no grudges against his assailant – has until 11am to submit an early guilty plea.
Greater Manchester Police yesterday confirmed it is liaising with all the relevant parties, including the RFL, the Criminal Prosecution Service and St Helens, before determining a course of action, despite receiving no public complaints.
Former England international Jonathan Davies, however, believes legal action is a very dangerous route for the sport of rugby league to tread.
“It was a totally unacceptable and cowardly act,” said Davies. “But I think it opens up a can of worms if the police get involved. For me, the RFL, Wigan and St Helens should sort this out. Maybe he should have a full season ban. He added: “On a rugby field, people who haven’t been involved in situations like this can’t understand controlling the emotion and adrenaline of playing on a big stage. Ben lost it and paid the price for it.”